With all the hype surrounding electric cars, you’d expect a breakthrough in battery technology to be right around the corner, right? While solid state batteries haven’t quite burst onto the mainstream, they aren’t the only option in the free marketplace. A startup called Our Next Energy is getting promising results out of what it calls “dual-chemistry architectures,” the latest of which involved a bucktoothed crossover.
An electric BMW iX with an experimental “Gemini” battery from Our Next Energy has reportedly traveled 608.1 miles on a single charge using the WLTP (Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure) cycle. Yep, 608.1 miles. Quite the distance, isn’t it?
Alright, the WLTP cycle is wildly optimistic, but still. A range of 608.1 miles represents more than a 50 percent improvement over the range of a stock iX. That’s huge. Crazier still? Our Next Energy uses two different battery chemistries to make everything happen. Here’s how the company explains it.
Gemini’s dual-chemistry architecture contains two different cell types using different battery chemistries. Lithium iron phosphate (LFP) cells power the motor and meets the demands of 99 percent of daily trips with a range of 150 miles. For longer road trips, the Gemini uses high energy density anode-free cells to provides an additional 450 miles of range by transferring power through ONE’s proprietary high efficiency DC-to-DC converter. Coupled by the DC-to-DC converter, the two cells work together to offer more than 600 miles on a single charge. Gemini is the longest-range EV battery pack that fits in the typical 300-400 liter space available in a vehicle for energy storage.
In addition to improved range, the Gemini battery hope to reduce the use of battery materials. In ONE’s words, this battery “reduces lithium use by 20% while reducing graphite use by 60% and minimizing the use of nickel and cobalt.” All noble stuff, no doubt. ONE’s battery technology is fascinating and promising, but don’t think of it as a silver bullet. As impressive as 608.1 miles of WLTP range on a single charge is, there are a few things to keep in mind before this Gemini battery pack whips you up into a fury.
First, this experimental battery pack is incredibly power-dense, 450 Wh/L to be precise, yet this application seems focused primarily on range rather than efficiency, thanks to a “185 kWh+” capacity. Of course a vehicle will get insane range if it has a ton of kWh to use, but vehicles with massive energy capacity tend to suffer from longer charging times. I would like to see a greater focus on kg/kWh rather than ultimate distance, as the balance between efficiency and range is necessary for resource allocation, for adoption, and for charging equity.
It’s also worth keeping scale in mind. Now, I’m not saying that building experimental batteries is easy or anything, but a prototype is a world away from mass production. The company has raised funds to build a battery plant in Michigan so mass production is in the works, though the company just reportedly laid off 25% of its salaried workers.
Even without the matters of homologation, simply ramping up production capacity will be a challenge, and breakthrough battery technology needs to be accessible to truly matter. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens, whether or not BMW ends up commercializing this technology.
(Photo credits: Our Next Energy)
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